Bloomington – Bill Lynch isn't ready to hand all of the keys to the IU running game over to Darius Willis just yet.
The Hoosiers' heralded redshirt freshman tailback couldn't have had a much better performance in his first career start, carrying 16 times for 152 yards and two touchdowns Saturday at Michigan. While that performance certainly solidifies his spot as a very important part of IU's running attack, Lynch isn't ready to banish senior Demetrius McCray and junior Trea Burgess to the bench.
"There's a place for all of them," Lynch said.
The place for Willis, though, appears to be in the starting lineup for the foreseeable future. Willis made his debut at the top spot on the Hoosiers' depth chart last Saturday and showed why there's been so much attention on him ever since he was a high school standout at Franklin Central.
"We think he has a great future as a tailback," Lynch said. "We felt there would be a point where he was going to have that breakout game where everyone could see it…we knew it was there and the last two weeks it's come out and it came out big time Saturday."
Despite that big performance, Lynch expects to continue to utilize both McCray and Burgess. McCray has a 17-carry, 134-yard effort against Western Michigan to his credit this season, and he entered the Michigan game as the team's leading rusher. McCray carried only one time for one yard against the Wolverines, but Lynch said that wasn't by design or due to injury.
" D(emetrius) McCray is a good running back," Lynch said. "He gives us some things and he's shown it. He's also very good in the passing game, so he's going to be important. Trea Burgess is a big, powerful guy. He gives us some things."
More than anything else, Lynch said he'll base the number of carries players are getting on how things unfold on the practice field as well as how the game is unfolding.
"We have great confidence in all of them, so it's not like, if he plays, we're in trouble," Lynch said. "That's why I think we're a better football team."
Indiana has been relatively injury-free during the season's first month, but Lynch said the team has likely lost back-up defensive end Darius Johnson for the foreseeable future. The 6'0", 249-pound Johnson injured his shoulder during practice last week on a special teams play, and Lynch said the injury appears to be long term.
"I don't know how long, but it's going to be a while," Lynch said.
Johnson had eight tackles, one sack, and one pass broken up in Indiana's first three games. In addition to backing up Greg Middleton and Jammie Kirlew at defensive end, Johnson was also a key to the Hoosiers' special teams units.
"He was really playing well," Lynch said. "It was a practice injury, and you hate to have practice injuries. But you have to practice hard, too."
While Johnson is going to be sidelined indefinitely, the Hoosiers are expected to Cody Faulkner back from a shoulder injury of his own. A starter at guard a year ago, Faulkner has missed the first four games of the season.
"He's getting pretty close," Lynch said. "He's practiced pretty well the last two weeks. I told him the other day keep going, we're going to need you."
For the first time this season Faulkner has re-emerged on the Hoosiers' depth chart this week, listed as the back-up to Pete Saxon at right guard.
"It would be good to get him back. He's getting pretty close to where we feel we could throw him out there," Lynch said.
Other News and Notes:
- Jammie Kirlew, Ben Chappell, Rodger Saffold and Will Patterson will serve as captains for the Ohio State game.
- Lynch said his opinion on Michigan's game-clinching interception Saturday hasn't changed after reviewing the play on film. After the game, Lynch said he thought Damarlo Belcher and Michigan cornerback Donovan Warren had "dual possession" of the ball, which by rule means Indiana would have maintained possession.
He also said he didn't talk to the official about the call afterwards…or at least he doesn't recall hearing an explanation for the ruling.
"I wasn't listening real well at that point," Lynch said.
IU Won't Be Going Solo With Rushing Attack
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